Running back Jaylen Warren latest to leave Utah State

Utah State running back Jaylen Warren (20) spins way from Boise State defensive tackle Scott Matlock (99) in the first half in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

Just when things were looking up for the Utah State football team, it suffers yet another blow.

Aggies senior running back Jaylen Warren has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. Multiple reports surfaced Monday before they were confirmed by the team in the game notes for the upcoming matchup against Air Force. The Herald Journal reported Friday that Warren was leaving.

Warren is one of Utah State’s best players and their leading running back. He ran for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries.

Warren is the latest player to enter the transfer portal, departing from an Aggies team that is just 1-4 this season. That one win came on Thanksgiving Day when they beat New Mexico, 41-27, behind an impressive performance from quarterback Andrew Peasley. Warren did not play in that game.

“The interesting thing about that is we won the football game by a lot of points,” interim coach Frank Maile said via videoconference. “So I guess the message for anyone who’s one foot in, one foot out is, ‘Make a decision.’ Can’t sit on the fence here at Utah State.”

Senior inside linebacker Cash Gilliam, senior safety Troy Lefeged Jr. and junior wide receiver Deven Thompkins all entered the transfer portal last week. All three players were starters.

Starting quarterback and University of Utah transfer Jason Shelley was dismissed from the team earlier this month for “violating team rules.” But Maile clarified his departure Monday, saying Shelley did nothing illegal and did not violate any “institutional rules.” He said dismissing Shelley was “100% my decision.”

With just two games left in the season and a formidable Air Force team coming to Logan on Thursday, it seems like the wrong time for the Aggies to lose another productive player. But Peasley doesn’t hold any ill will toward players who decide to leave.

“I don’t look at anyone who’s transferred or whatever as a quitter or giving up,” Peasley said. “And I think the team knows that. So we just have to continue to do us and get better every day.”

Graduate student outside linebacker Nick Heninger said he knows what it’s like to be on the bench waiting for his opportunity to play all while knowing he could contribute to the team. He felt he saw more players get more involved on both sides of the ball who haven’t had as much of an opportunity this season, and liked the way they played.

“Obviously it worked, right?” Heninger said.

Heninger respects the decisions of those players who have decided to leave the program, he said.

“I get it,” said Heninger, who was once a Utah Ute. “But at the same time, that’s a personal choice. This team is still a family and we still have to win games. That’s the ultimate goal.”